Monday, November 30, 2009

Should your best player be blocking shots?

Hello, Bonjour & Hóigh!

Patrice Bergeron suffered an apparent leg injury in the first period of Saturday night's 4-3 shootout win over the Senators. He was helped off the ice, missed a few shifts but eventually came back and played the remainder of the game. Word today from Bruins practice was that he would be in the lineup Wednesday when the Bruins host the Lightning.

But if the injury had been worse -- and it looked as if it might be -- some critics were questioning that maybe head coach Claude Julien shouldn't have the Bruins' best player on the penalty kill blocking shots. Huh? Then what's the point of having a player like Bergeron that can play in all situations? Think the Red Wings debate putting Henrik Zetterberg or Pavel Datsyuk out on the penalty kill or thought about asking Steve Yzerman to do tha same? Or the Avalanche with Joe Sakic or Peter Forsberg?

Unfortunately yes, injuries happen in hockey and blocking shots has became an integral part of defense in today's game but maybe protection is needed. Not sitting your best player or penalty killer.

But many, including my good friend and colleague Joe Haggerty, of whom I agree with on most points, think maybe Julien needs to avoid having Bergeron out there in such situations and blocking shots.

The ever-controversial and well-watched Don Cherry did just that on his most recent "Coach's Corner" segment on Hockey Night In Canada.

“How many times have I said, don’t have your stars blocking shots and killing penalties?" Cherry asked co-host Ron MacLean as they went over the highlight of Bergeron's injury. "Mike Milbury said at the start [of the show] that he’s their best player. Look at him. That’s their best player and they’d already lost Marc Savard -- their first-best player -- blocking shots. The Bruins have got the guy killing penalties and blocking shots. How stupid can you be, and that’s coach of the year, Claude Julien? He could have had a broken foot. You never have your stars killing penalties.”

Chances are that Julien heard about or watched Cherry's critique, and when asked by a reporter after practice Monday if he felt "lucky" that Bergeron wasn't going to miss any games, Julien immediately pointed out that blocked shots are part of the game.

“It is what it is, guys. It’s the game of hockey, where there are a lot of shots taken," Julien said. "A lot of shots blocked in this game today. That’s what most teams do. You just have to look at the sheet at the end of the night. The amount of blocked shots in this game is unbelievable. I don’t think he intended to block the shot that way. He slipped and when he tried to regain his balance that’s when he got hit. It wasn’t a matter of recklessness. It was just an unfortunate situation.

"Anytime you’ve got a player back that wasn’t seriously injured, it’s a fortunate thing in this game today," Julien added. "There are tons of injuries around the league. Broken feet and other things seem to be common these days.”
Defenseman Dennis Wideman said pretty much the same thing and credited Bergeron for his willingness to block shots and play so many roles.

“When he blocked a shot and he doesn’t get up it makes us worried,” said Wideman. “But you need your best players doing stuff like that, and "Bergie" is a guy that does that on a night-in, night-out basis. He blocks shots, he hits, he scores, he works hard. Those are the guys that win.”

I'd have to agree with Julien and Wideman. Right now Bergeron is too valuable to not have him out there. He is playing the best hockey of his career and limiting what he can or not do or bring to the team, would hurt his momentum and subsequently the team. Hopefully protective equipment is introduced soon and players start wearing it, but until then, if you have a player like Bergeron that can do anything you ask him to, let him do it!




  1. Well said, Murph. Your best player should be one that does it all, right?!

  2. I remember when Chara first arrived here. He had to sit out a few preseason games because he had blocked a shot in a preseason game or a practice. The message then was the same as it is now: Every player does whatever it takes to win. There are no exceptions. Bergeron's best qualities are the fact that he does it all (as the previous commenter pointed out.) Asking him to not be who he is is just stupid.